By MOSHE GIT
The Jewish annals of the post-WW II years are rife with complaints and accusations against the allies for being indifferent to the extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany during the war. The Jews were transported to the extermination camps by trains. A simple military operation could have disrupted that system.
Just a few sorties targeting the rails leading to Auschwitz, Treblinka and other camps, or their facilities, could have saved millions of the condemned, yet none were carried out. The extermination operation spread over a number of years, yet the allies wouldn’t spare even a few hours of their war effort during those years to attempt to put a monkey wrench in the Nazi killing machine.
Fast forward to Syria of the past decade. Syria was disintegrating. Different factions took control of different slivers of its territory. To retain his hegemony, President Bashar al-Assad mercilessly bombed cities and towns. Over a half-million civilians were killed and many more were injured. Millions were uprooted from their homes and became refugees, many of whom remain outside the borders of Syria.
Assad was on the verge of collapse. His hold on power became shaky to the point that Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister and minister of defense, anticipated that the Assad regime would collapse within two weeks.
Yet Israel, which shares a border with Syria, stood on the sidelines and did nothing to help topple the tottering Assad regime and bring a stop to the ongoing mayhem. After a while, Russia got into the fray and bolstered Assad’s blood-soaked hold on power. Putin had no qualms about supporting Assad; after all, about two decades earlier, he practiced the same tactic of obliterating a civilian population in quashing the rebellion in Chechnya.
Netanyahu could have saved a lot of souls by exerting very little effort. Apparently, for him, Arab souls aren’t worth much — just as Jewish souls during World War II were not worth enough for the Allies to save.
But that blunder isn’t the only one that can be attributed to Netanyahu.
There isn’t much of a chance that other countries and international bodies like the United Nations will follow the United States in recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Russia and the European Union immediately proclaimed their objections. The world doesn’t care about the inhabitants of countries, but it does insanely care about countries’ boundaries. Just recall how the U.N. sent troops to fight against the independence of Katanga from the erstwhile Belgian Congo (Zaire).
And European colonial powers carved up the territory inhabited by the Kurds — a region with a distinct culture, history and even its own language — into a number of parts, allotting chunks mainly to Turkey, Iraq and Syria. For years the Kurds have been struggling for independence. Alas, the international community cares not about the aspiration of the Kurds, but rather about keeping the boundaries of the neighboring countries intact. Unilateral declarations regarding the transfer of territories from one country to another — or objections to such a transfer, even if the declarer is a world power — don’t seem to have any effect.
Recently, Russia annexed Crimea and the U.S. said it wasn’t recognizing the act. In the first half of the previous century, the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic States. The fact that the U.S. never recognized the annexation didn’t make the slightest difference. The only way the world would recognize the Israeli annexation of the Golan Height is if Syria would consent to it. There is zero chance of that happening.
The annexation of the Golan Heights could be sustained if the Syrian entity were to cease demanding its return, and the only way to realize this end would be if Syria, as an entity, were to cease to exist. Modern Syria in its currently accepted “international borders” is a fairly recent establishment. It is the handiwork of colonial powers like the United Kingdom, France and Turkey. It is an assembly of regions that has had less than a century to mold into one solid unit.
As previously noted, when Syria was on the verge of disintegration, Israel could have won its claim for the Golan Heights sliver easily. Yet Netanyahu, perhaps because he wanted to be seen as a nice guy, avoided giving the final push leading to Syria’s demise.
Now, Syria is back on its feet and Israel has lost a golden opportunity to have the Golan recognized as its territory.
Moshe Git lives in Minnetonka.
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